10 May 2007

Historical Medicines

I suffer from migraines, very bad, very life-interrupting ones. I'm on medication, I meditate, exercise, drink lots of tea, actually cut back on my chocolate consumption (let me tell you, no easy feat), have certain scents to help with the pain (lavender), use eye packs in hot and cold for some small amount of help, and I've completely stopped eating rye bread based on one particularly debilitating migraine. (I never did figure out if it was the rye or just a bad day, but would you want to experiment with something like that?) I'm seriously worried about my liver, I take so many pain medications, and I drink enough water to fill the Atlantic at least once a year.

One thing I've never had done, and will fatally maim the first person to try it on me, is trepanation. You know, where they drill a hole in your head!

Celsus (215-300 AD) correctly described typical migraine triggers: "drinking wine, or crudity (dyspepsia), or cold, or heat of fire, or the sun." He forgot to add drops in barometer. Yup, a rainstorm'll get you every time.

Abulcasis (Abu El Quasim) (936-1013 AD)suggested putting a hot iron to the head or inserting garlic into an incision made in the temple. Please see my reactiuon to trepanation.

Ebn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037) described migraines in his textbook El Qanoon fel Teb as "...small movements, drinking and eating, and sounds provoke the pain...the patient cannot tolerate the sound of speaking and light. He would like to rest in darkness alone." Yes please, this is perfect. Darkness and QUIET!

Abu Bakr Mohamed Ibn Zakariya Râzi (864-930 AD) noted the association of headache with different events in the lives of women, "...And such a headache may be observed after delivery and abortion or during menopause and dysmenorrhea." Er...no.

I take wonderful pain medication for this. Lovely knocks me out so I-can't-feel-a-thing drugs. Thank you modern science!

But medicine then still has a basis in today's world. I drink tea (nasty awful stuff I wouldn't wish on my worst enemny...wait, let me think. Yes, yes I would.) that has ginger, willowbark, and white-something in it. No, not white bark, that's licorice. And herbal Chinese tea that's even nastier. But hey, it works.

What ailemnts have your characters encountered? What did you use to treat them?

A History of Migranes
Another Migraine History


carrie_lofty said...

Don't be fooled by his silly menstruation comment. Al-Razi's a really nifty dude to keep in your medical/science history folder. He's the same one I talked about with regard to alchemy.

**BTW, I whispered all of that, so as not to hurt your head.**

Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

Sympathies on your migraines, Christine! I suffer from them, too, and take meds. As awful as they are, I consider myself lucky to live in this time. My grandad and his brother suffered terribly and there was nothing to take to relieve their pain.

catmum said...

Lifetime migraines for me too, started having aura pre-verbal age. Two of my three children inherited, sadly. Hope you have read Oliver Sacks wonderful book, "Migraine." Very illuminating as well as entertaining.

jennifer said...

I developed a fascination with traditional remedies through a story I wrote set in the old west. I never seem to go into what is actually used because I'm not sure what the traditional recipes for them would be, but if i show someone making something to help with an illness then it is because that something exists. I know no one would know the difference but me, still... oh and several of those books i've collected all say taking feverfew everyday can help prevent migraines. I looked just for you.

Christine Koehler said...

Feverfew! That's it, I knew it was something, but the name escaped me. Thanks, Jennifer. I'll have to see if my local health store carries that.